Last week I discussed how to find a doctor who knows about the types of healing methods I recommend for arthritis.
Once you have located some promising candidates, the next step is to screen them.
Some questions are best asked by calling the office, before making an appointment:
- What technical certifications, professional organizations and hospital affiliations does this practitioner have? Do they have a specialty or subspecialty?
- Do they treat many patients with arthritis? What sort of success rate have they had?
- How long does it take on average to get an appointment?
- What are the doctor's office hours?
- How long do patients typically spend in the waiting room when they have an appointment scheduled?
- How many patients does this office book per hour?
- Is this doctor covered by your insurance plan or HMO?
- Where are they located?
- When is the best time to call with follow-up questions after an appointment? [Some doctors set aside time each day or week for telephone consultations. Others take or return calls whenever they are able to. Any doctor who 'does not talk to patients on the phone,' should not be your doctor.]
Once you have an appointment with a new practitioner, it's also important to establish good lines of communication in your first meeting. This helps you assess how well the two of you are able to work together, and also sets a good foundation for future discussions about your health and healing.
During the first visit you will want to find out:
- How does he/she feel about second opinions and the particular alternative health care therapies/treatments you are interested in? Are they willing and able to support you in those therapies? Do they have other therapies they might also recommend? Are they willing to educate you enough to make an informed decision on these other treatment options?
- Do you feel comfortable and cared for when you visit the office? Does the staff further your sense of well being?
- Is your appointment time honored or do you have to wait?
- Do you feel this practitioner is there for you? Do you feel trust and confidence? Does he/she seem to care about you? Is your personal dignity respected?
- Does he/she personally take your medical history? If not, does he/she still discuss the highlights of your history with you?
- Does he/she take an interest in your family, lifestyle and diet?
- Are you told about various treatment options?
- Are you able to discuss the financial aspects of your care openly and comfortably?
- Are your questions welcome?
Once you have chosen a doctor, and had a few office visits, you should also be able to answer 'yes' to the following:
- Do you have confidence in this doctor's ability?
- Do you feel continuity of care between visits? Your doctor should be able to recall your last visit and gauge your progress.
- Is your doctor sharing the results of all pertinent diagnostic tests with you?
- Are we working together as a team?
- Is this relationship working for me?